Step 7 of Church Building – Zoning and Planning Department Approvals
This is Step 7 of our ten-step development process that will get you out of that temporary facility and into your permanent building. Or maybe you have outgrown your building and need to expand, update or relocate. This is for you.
A lot of times people do not know how to work with the city or county where they are developing a piece of property. Most cities and counties have Planning Departments. It may contain the Department of Public Works that covers all the utilities from traffic lights to stormwater, and a Building Department which focuses on the actual construction of facilities.
Step 7 is all about how to work with the Planning and Zoning Department(s). Check this out before you close escrow on your property to make sure that you can put a church on the land you are looking to buy.
Many church pastors have come to me saying, “Brad, we bought this beautiful piece of land. We would like you to come out and design a facility and get us into a new building.” I go out and I find that they have already bought a piece of property and it turns out that they cannot put a church on it.There can be a lot of different reasons why you cannot put a church on a piece of land. Churches have unknowingly bought Native American burial grounds and they have attempted to purchase land that was within the radius of a bomb blast of a natural gas supplier. You name, I have seen it.
There is a lot of homework that goes into acquiring property (see Step 2). Once you have the property and know you can put a church on it, you have to get planning and zoning approvals before you can start the actual construction, or even begin your working drawings.
It is extremely important that you know how to work with government agencies and how the whole process works. To help you, we have put together a free e-book called Working with Government Agencies. You can download it at bradoaster.com. The e-book will go through all the different steps involved in working with the city or county in order to get zoning and planning department approval as well as teach you how to work with Public Works, the fire department, and the building department so you can actually put a building on that piece of property. And please do not take anyone’s word for. Just because someone at the counter says you can do something, until you have it in writing, it does not exist and is not a fact. As the pastor, you are the one who is responsible for making sure that everything is in writing. It is your reputation on the line.
I worked with a new start-up church in the north part of Denver, Colorado. They met in a building at a local airport. They had their first services there and had grown to several hundred people. My sister attended there and arranged for me to meet with the pastor. We had a nice lunch together and talked about a piece of land that they had just purchased and the building he wanted to build on it. He was a nice guy, but every now and then I come across a young pastor who believes that he knows everything there is to know. In his mind, he is the smartest guy in the world and does not need any help. This was one of those guys.
Against my advice, the pastor went to a large architectural firm in Texas. I knew what would happen next because I had seen it before. The church paid the architectural firm $400,000 to develop a full set of permit-ready drawings. It was a huge set of plans. At some point, a builder got the drawings and went to the City of Westminster to check on the Stormwater Management Plan. Then he went to the city, and the city looked the plans and said, “What church?” The builder told the city that Northpoint Church was going to build there. The city knew nothing about it. You see, the architectural firm never went to the Planning Department or Zoning Department to see if a church could be built on that property. They simply took the $400,000 from the church and drew a big set of plans.
When the city found out about the church wanting to build in a business park they declined considering a permit because it was not zoned for a church. Zoning changes would not be made. The city was looking at that property to produce property taxes, and if it was retail, it would also produce sales taxes. They did not want a church there. The builder came back and told the elder board and the know-it-all pastor that not only could they not build there, it would cost ten million dollars to build the building. On the best day, that church could have done a $4M building.
So what happened then? $400,000 worth of ministry money (in the form of a big, fat set of drawings) went in the trash. The pastor was so embarrassed that he resigned and left the state.
Keep in mind that nobody knows everything. Real estate development is a very complicated field. There are a lot of pitfalls out that an inexperienced person could easily fall into. In this case, it was a ministry-ending event.
To avoid this pitfall, download the free e-book to learn how to work with Zoning and Planning Departments. While you are there, check out all of the other informational e-books we have created to help you make good decisions as you develop the property. It has taken 35 years and more than 250 projects to gain this experience and knowledge, so please use them. Remember what Solomon said, search for wisdom, acquire knowledge. It will serve you well.
Call me now so I can help you: 719-439-3019. Download your free e-books here.
Download my e book, understanding government agencies and learn how to navigate through the entitlement and permit process.